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Ashburn Thursday 28 Sep 2023
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Dozens Killed and Hundreds Wounded as Fighting Erupts in Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

By Nitish Verma
Dozens Killed and Hundreds Wounded as Fighting Erupts in Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict
Damage to residential buildings and vehicles in Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh after Azerbaijan launched fresh strikes on the region. Photograph: SARGSYAN/OC MEDIA HANDOUT/EPA

A Struggle for Control

The disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh has become a battleground once again, witnessing the loss of numerous civilian and military lives. The Azerbaijan government has initiated an operation, labeled as an “anti-terrorist operation”, in this region that is internationally recognized as Azerbaijani territory but partially controlled by separatist Armenian authorities.

The Azerbaijani prosecutor general’s office has claimed that the Armenian forces attacked Shusha, a city under Azerbaijan’s control in Nagorno-Karabakh, resulting in civilian casualties. This claim, however, lacks independent confirmation. The U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called for an immediate cessation of Azerbaijan’s operations, citing the worsening humanitarian situation as the primary concern.

Armenia’s Appeal for Assistance

In response to the escalating conflict, Armenia has sought assistance from the UN Security Council and Russian peacekeepers. Russia, having brokered a ceasefire after the 2020 war in the region, has echoed the call for an end to hostilities. However, the current tensions highlight the strained relations between Armenia and its longtime ally, Russia. Armenia has criticized the Russian peacekeeping force for failing to ensure the open road to Armenia as per the agreement that concluded the 2020 war.

Azerbaijan’s Operation and Armenia’s Denial

Azerbaijan’s defence ministry has stated that the operation initiated on Tuesday targets Armenian military assets using high-precision weapons. Armenia, on the other hand, has denied the presence of its troops or weapons in Nagorno-Karabakh and accused Azerbaijan of attempting to provoke a conflict.

The Impact on Civilians

Reports indicate that the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, Stepanakert, along with other villages, is under heavy shelling. Civilians are seeking refuge in basements and bomb shelters, grappling with electricity outage and food shortages due to the ongoing conflict. The dire situation has ignited protests in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, with thousands demanding that authorities defend Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. Clashes with police have resulted in injuries to both officers and civilians.

Ongoing Humanitarian Crisis

The conflict has taken a heavy toll on the civilian population. Azerbaijani forces have reportedly carried out indiscriminate attacks in Stepanakert, violating the laws of war. An on-site investigation by Human Rights Watch in Nagorno-Karabakh’s largest city found several incidents in which Azerbaijani forces used inherently indiscriminate cluster munitions and artillery rockets. These attacks have caused substantial damage to schools, private homes, businesses, and hospitals.

Call for Accountability

International humanitarian law prohibits attacks that fail to distinguish between military objectives and civilians or civilian objects. Azerbaijan should investigate potential unlawful attacks on populated areas, ensure accountability for any violation, and commit to avoiding the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas.

Looking Ahead

The present hostilities underscore the volatile nature of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the urgent need for a sustainable resolution. As the region continues to grapple with the effects of the ongoing conflict, it is crucial for the international community to intervene and facilitate peace negotiations. The lives of thousands of civilians hang in the balance, awaiting a resolution that ensures their safety and security.

 

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